Florida Farmworker Dies After Working Through Extreme Heat Wave, Activists Call for Reform
Efraín López García, 29, lost his life on July 6 while working at a farm in Homestead, Florida. The date was the hottest day on Earth since 1979.
“It is happening, we are scared because more people are saying they are fainting and feeling the symptoms (of heat stroke),” Yvette Cruz, Communication Coordinator of the Farmworker Association of Florida, told CBS News Miami.
Cruz added victims often feel disoriented and start walking by themselves, symptoms apparent in López.
“When some of these workers start feeling disoriented, they start walking by themselves and they get lost,” she added.
Now, the victim’s family joins hundreds of activists fighting for farmworkers’ rights across the state to prevent death from the heat.
Efraín López García was feeling “weak” at work, when his cousin went to get him water, he had already perished
According to Jeremías López, the victim’s brother, the 29-year-old didn’t stop working despite feeling “weak” at work.
“My brother wasn’t feeling well, he was weak,” he told CBS News Miami. “My cousin pulled him to a rest area, he then stepped away to get my brother water and when he came back Efrain wasn’t there…. they found him a few feet away dead,” he added.
The Miami Herald reports Efraín López’s coworker called Jeremías to relay the news that his brother had died on the job.
“He told me something had happened but he didn’t say what exactly,” Jeremías shared at a vigil for his brother by the Farmworker Association of Florida. “I called him back and talked to him and he told me [Efraín] was ill and had apparently died because of the heat.”
López worked through eight burning summers as a farmworker in Florida, and tragically, his story is not an isolated event. His family started a GoFundMe to send his body back to Guatemala for burying by his mother.
Activists are calling for reforms to farmworker rights
On July 20, Miami-Dade County commissioners, Kione McGhee and Marleine Bastien, introduced a new bill to establish new heat standards for outdoor workers.
McGhee himself shared his own experience growing up in rural Florida and working as a bean picker with his mother.
“One death in the hot sun is one too many,” McGhee said in a news conference. “Give these people what they need, something I didn’t have growing up, and that is simply water, sun protection, shade.”
The ordinance stipulates that companies in Miami-Dade County must provide workers with water and, on days where the heat index is at 90 degrees, give them a 10-minute break in the shade. Companies will also need to train workers and supervisors on heat safety to avoid fatalities. Those who do not comply could face penalties of up to $3,000 per violation per day.
“On July 6 in Homestead, a 29-year-old kid died in the heat,” Alejandro Pérez, member of the worker advocacy group WeCount said during a press conference.
“Is that what we deserve? No. We’re human beings. We deserve a dignified life and a decent job. Today we want to tell the commissioners to pass this law so that we can stop our people from dying.”
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